UPDATE 2-U.S., Ethiopia, PNG to join anti-corruption drive
* Initiative to combat corruption in energy, mining
* EITI group approves applications
* Rights group criticises Ethiopian candidacy
* Yemen membership suspended (Adds U.S., Yemen, PNG, changes dateline)
OSLO/ADDIS ABABA, March 19 (Reuters) - Ethiopia, the United States and Papua New Guinea are on course to join the leading world initiative to combat corruption in the energy and mining industries.
The Oslo-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) approved their applications on Wednesday, drawing swift criticism from human rights campaigners for admitting Ethiopia. The three now have three years comply with EITI standards.
Ethiopia has no proven petroleum reserves and a small mining industry driven by potash producers. Rights activists accuse it of political repression.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, which had asked the EITI board to reject the East African country's membership bid, said the EITI's reputation had been damaged.
"The EITI's decision to admit Ethiopia without insisting on reforms is an affront to the local activists who have been jailed or exiled for calling for a more transparent, accountable government," Lisa Misol, a senior researcher at HRW, said in a statement. Continued...